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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    HPV vaccine catching on at UA clinic

    A recently developed vaccine that has proved almost 100 percent effective in preventing diseases caused by the human papilloma virus has Campus Health Service officials emphasizing the importance of students receiving the immunizations.

    Campus Health, which started offering the HPV vaccine in September, has given out 150 immunizations since then, said Judy Stivers, immunization nurse for Campus Health.

    Campus Health orders the HPV vaccine in relation to demand, Stivers said.

    HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that has more than 100 different strains, with 30 of these viruses infecting the genital area of men and women. Although most people infected with HPV don’t have any symptoms, some have genital warts. High-risk strains of HPV can lead to cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina, anus or penis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site.

    If an individual is sexually active, there is a possibility that he or she could contract the virus unknowingly, said Faye Libby, a nurse practitioner at the Women’s Health Clinic.

    “”The types of HPV that infect the genital area are spread primarily through genital contact, and because there are no signs or symptoms, infected persons can transmit the virus to a sex partner without being aware of it,”” Libby said.

    Approximately 20 million people are currently infected with HPV, and at least 50 percent of sexually active people acquire HPV infections at some point in their lives, according to the Web site.

    But Gardasil, a new drug approved by the FDA in June, protects against four HPV strains, which together cause 70 percent of cervical cancers and 90 percent of genital warts, Libbey said.

    “”The CDC has recommended that women from the age of 9 to 26 years old receive the vaccine,”” she said. “”This age group is being targeted because the vaccine should be administered before women become sexually active.””

    Women who are already sexually active should also receive the vaccine, but they may get less benefit from it because they may have already acquired one or more HPV types covered by the vaccine, Libbey said.

    The vaccine consists of a series of three immunizations, with a two month interval between each one. Preliminary studies have shown that Gardasil remains effective in women for more than five years after receiving the vaccine, according to the CDC Web site.

    Megan Lustigson, a health education senior, said she was unaware that Campus Health offered the vaccine.

    “”If I was in a monogamous relationship, I would not get the vaccine in hopes that we would both be clean, but if I was single and sexually active, I would highly consider it,”” she said.

    Some insurance companies cover the vaccine, which costs about $140 out-of-pocket, Libbey said.

    “”For students that are covered by the Campus Health insurance, we are providing a referral to receive the vaccine from an outside provider,”” said Libbey.

    The HPV vaccine remains relatively new and is currently the target of many studies, but the importance of the drug and being proactive cannot be emphasized enough, said Libbey.

    “”We strongly encourage all women to take this precaution and receive the vaccine,”” she said. “”But regardless of whether or not they do this, the most important thing is that all women continue getting screened for cervical cancer by having regular Pap tests.””

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